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Full text of "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto"

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto 

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for 
themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries 
in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of 
private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the 
sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier. 

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought 
valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure 
their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But 
even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. 
Everything up until now will have been lost. 

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their 
colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? 
Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to 
children in the Global South? It's outrageous and unacceptable. 

"I agree," many say, "but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they 
make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it's perfectly legal — 
there's nothing we can do to stop them." But there is something we can, something that's 
already being done: we can fight back. 

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been 
given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world 
is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for 
yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords 
with colleagues, filling download requests for friends. 



Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been 
sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by 
the publishers and sharing them with your friends. 

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It's called stealing or 
piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a 
ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn't immoral — it's a moral imperative. Only 
those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy. 

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate 
require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they 
have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who 
can make copies. 

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the 
grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public 
culture. 

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with 
the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need 
to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific 
journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open 
Access. 

With enough of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message opposing the 
privatization of knowledge — we'll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us? 

Aaron Swartz 

July 2008, Eremo, Italy